Spring vacation trips in Israel's Golan Heights

Below are a few suggestions on how to spend a 24-hour visit to the Golan, including an overnight stay at Kibbutz Or Tal. 

 Kibbutz Or Tal (photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
Kibbutz Or Tal
(photo credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

Now that the Golan Heights has moved out of winter and into springtime, you will find plenty of gushing streams, lush forests and entertaining attractions throughout the region. Below are a few suggestions on how to spend a 24-hour visit to the Golan, including an overnight stay at Kibbutz Or Tal. 

1. Hayarden Park

Located near the Kinneret, and spread out over 100 hectares, Hayarden Park is one of my favorite places to visit on the Golan Heights in the springtime.

A tributary of the Jordan River flows through the nature park, and there are a number of lovely walking paths you can take that will take you past archaeological ruins, lots of trees and shrubs and pools of water.

One of my favorites is the Flour Mill Trail (follow the red trail markers), an easy 45-minute-long path that takes you along a brook and past a few flour mills. The trail is partially shaded by trees, making it a great option even on hot days. You might even luck out and catch a glimpse of the cute pond turtles, ducks and fish that live in the streams.

 Hayarden Park (credit: MEITAL SHARABI) Hayarden Park (credit: MEITAL SHARABI)

Another option that is especially great for families with little kids is a 15-minute-long trail following the purple trail markers. It also begins in the area with the flour mills, requires walking inside the stream for 150 meters, and then passes underneath a canopy of reeds that grow out of the water. 

Visitors are welcome to picnic anywhere inside Hayarden Park, go rafting, stay overnight in the park’s camping site, or join a night tour that includes a humorous audiovisual show prepared by Eretz Nehederet actors. 

2. Kibbutz Or Tal

Just north of Park Hayarden, in the northern Golan Heights near Mount Avital, you will find Kibbutz Or Tal, which is a great place for couples and families to stay overnight and use as a base for day trips to nearby popular nature sites, such as the Gilbon, Sa’ar and Oravim steams.

The guesthouse at Kibbutz Or Tal, which sits 915 meters above sea level, and has been around for over two decades, is made up of two sections: newly renovated rooms for couples and small families, as well as larger Scandinavian-style cabins that are a little farther out in the forest and overlook Tel Shifon. These larger units have a kitchenette, Jacuzzi and a separate bedroom.

Overnight stays include a scrumptious breakfast in the kibbutz’s dining hall, where guests are offered a glimpse into the kibbutz’s agricultural and communal way of life. In addition, the kibbutz recently unveiled its new horse farm, and guests can join a chocolate workshop or get a massage. 

Details: (04) 696-0808. 

3. EZ Riders

Another activity available at Kibbutz Or Tal is guided tours on EZ Riders that will take you through the vineyards and fruit orchards of the region.

These off-road vehicles all have thick tires and wide handlebars for a comfortable grip. There are two ways to ride these ATVs: standing or sitting. They are adjustable, with safety belts for small kids. 

Price: NIS 190-240.Details: 072-395-0933.

4. Tel Shifon Winery 

It would be a shame to travel around the Golan Heights and not make a stop and enjoy a wine tasting at one of the region’s local wineries. The Golan Heights is famous for its exceptional wines, and Tel Shifon and Har Odem wineries can definitely be included on this list. 

Tel Shifon is actually the rebranding of Or Tal Winery, which was founded in 2009 by Kibbutz Or Tal member and winemaker Ilan Zafrani. A few years later, vintner Naama Sorkin took up the gauntlet, and now, new entrepreneurs have taken over the business and changed the name to Tel Shifon. 

Situated at the entrance to Kibbutz Or Tal, Tel Shifon Winery sits on volcanic ground that is 915 meters above sea level, with a view of the gorgeous green surroundings. The winery produces 50,000 bottles of wine a year, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot varieties. The price for a tour, wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres is NIS 140.

Location: Kibbutz Or Tal.Reservations: www.ontopo.co.il

5. Har Odem Winery

If you’d like to visit a Golan Heights kosher boutique winery, then I recommend stopping at Har Odem winery, which was founded in 2003 and is still managed by the Alfasi family. Any of a number of family members are likely to meet you in the visitor center, happily give you a tour of the winery and offer you a taste of their wines, alongside cheese platters. 

The winery currently produces 150,000 bottles of wine a year, 70% of which is made from grapes grown in their own vineyards, which allows them a high degree of control over the quality of their wines.

Har Odem winery is the northernmost winery in Israel. At its visitor center, guests can choose from four different tasting options (NIS 40-75), or just sit back and enjoy a glass of wine as you gaze out at the beautiful views. 

Reservations: www.harodem.co.il

 Odem Forest Farm (credit: MEITAL SHARABI) Odem Forest Farm (credit: MEITAL SHARABI)
6. Odem Forest Farm

Before you complete your trip to the Golan Heights, it’s a must to visit the Odem Forest Farm in Moshav Odem, where you will find all sorts of animals meandering around free on the farm.

The farm was founded by Alon Borenstein, who says he created it as “an educational and rehabilitative place for people who love animals, and for animals who love humans.”

All of the animals that live on the farm were either abandoned, abused or born with malformations, and Alon lovingly brought them together to live on his farm. His goal is to provide a calm and peaceful life for all these animals.

He left his hectic life in Tel Aviv as an art director 10 years ago, making the 180° change following the trauma of Operation Protective Edge.

Among the animals you’ll find at the Odem Forest Farm are horses, mules, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits and even a wolf that follows Alon around everywhere he goes. 

Price: NIS 35, which includes guided tour. Details: 054-765-3123.

7. K Burger Bar

If you’d rather not arrive home on an empty stomach, I recommend stopping to eat at K Burger Bar, located at Waset intersection.

K Burger Bar offers a full grill menu, including schnitzel, fish-and-chips, steak in a pita, shwarma and salads – all at reasonable prices. This is also a popular establishment to stop at for a beer. 

Details: (04) 877-3977.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.